'Exceptional pressures' have led to patients waiting 18-hours in Poole's accident and emergency unit, while queues of 15 ambulances waited outside, unable to respond to other emergency calls. 

University Hospitals Dorset Trust (UHD) has confirmed reports of excessive waits at emergency departments across the Royal Bournemouth Hospital and Poole Hospital last weekend.

However, a spokesperson insisted that these problems were not isolated to weekends saying that they had seen “long ambulance queues any day of the week”.

The current situation has been described by the trust as due to "exceptional pressures".

Though the situation at Poole Hospital eased at by the middle of this week, the spokesperson urged the public to call 111 first and to take relatives home from hospital if they could.

A warning was issued to residents this week, urging them to seek medical help elsewhere if the situatuon wasn't urgent.

'Long ambulance queues any day of the week'

The spokesperson said there were a number of causes for the increased waiting times for hospital and ambulance patients. 

He said: “This is because of a combination of reasons, including the high numbers of patients coming to our emergency departments (ED); having 200 patients across our hospitals who are medically ready to leave us, but can’t because of on-going support in the community and this then means it is hard to move patients out of ED.

Bournemouth Echo: Poole HospitalPoole Hospital

“Covid restrictions have affected our capacity and a sharp rise of Covid in our community and across the south west recently. This has led to an increase in patients with Covid in our hospitals and higher number of staff isolating or off sick, both of which put additional pressures on our hospitals.”  

“Our staff though are working incredibly hard under pressurised circumstances and will continue to prioritise our most poorly patients first.” 

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A spokesperson for the South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) said: “We are sorry that, due to the health and social care system being under severe pressure, some patients are having to wait longer for an ambulance. One of the reasons for this is due to the length of time it’s taking us to hand over patients into busy hospitals.

“We are working closely with NHS partners to address these delays, so our crews can get back out on the road for other patients.

"However, even with the additional resources we are making available, the number of ambulances currently waiting for prolonged periods of time at Emergency Departments inevitably impacts on our ability to respond to patients.”

The hospital is continuing to urge residents call 111 first or go online to be advised of an arrival slot at minor injuries before visiting the hospital and to only attend A&E for serious or life-threatening injuries and conditions. 

“We are also appealing to families to help get relatives home promptly when they are ready to leave hospital so that we have beds available for patients who need to be urgently admitted,” the spokesperson added.

 “We apologise to those patients who have been delayed in our Emergency Departments and ask for their understanding during this time of exceptional pressures.”